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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

The Classification of Languages          195
(a) Tamil   (ft) Telugu    (c) Canarese
Kafir, Swahih, Bechuana, Sesuto, Hereto, Congo, Ditala, etc
Because grammatical similarities between different languages furnish
one of the three most important indications of evolutionary relation-
ship, it is useful to recognize certain general grammatical features
which may be more or less characteristic of a language From this point
of view we can classify language-types which may coincide with genuine
evolutionary affinity, if the evidence of grammar is supported by other
clues such as the two already discussed If other clues are not available3
the fact that languages are classified in this way does not necessarily
point to common ongin, because languages which are related may have
lost outstanding grammatical similarities, and languages which belong
to different families may have evolved similar grammatical traits along
different paths Fiom this pomt of view, we can divide languages into
the following types —isolating, flexional, root-inflected and dassificatory
The first and the last are the most cleai-cut, and the second, which
embraces a great diversity of tongues, depends on grammatical devices
which have no common origin Even when we stretch the limits of all
three to the utmost, we are left with many languages in which isolated
flexional and dassificatory features may be blended without decisive
predominance of any one of them, and the language of a single com-
munity may traverse the boundaries of such groups in a comparatively
short period of its history. Thus the English of Alfred the Great was a
typically flexional language, and Anglo-American is predominantly
isolating Basque, which is a law unto itself, the Amerindian dialects,
and the speech of the Esquimaux in Greenland, fit into no clearly
defined family based on evidence of common ancestry, and we cannot
classify them in any of the three grammatical groups mentioned above.
The word of an isolating language is an unalterable unit Neither
fkxional accretions nor internal changes reveal what part the word
plays in the sentence, as do the changes from house to houses, men to
men'$9 give to gave> live to lived All the words which we should call
verbs are fixed like must (p 123), and all the words we call nouns are
fixed like grouse. Vernaculars of the Chinese family, usually cited as
extreme examples of the isolating type, have other common features
which are not necessarily connected with the fact that the word is an